What was learning guitar like in the 60s and 70s?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Telephonist, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. tomi

    tomi Tele-Holic

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    Took some lessons the summer after fourth grade from a college kid who was a music major and home for the summer. He taught me the "cowboy chords," and I learned a bunch of folk songs from paperback songbooks. I shortly got into a band with some of my friends (we're talking fifth/sixth grade here), and we were doing tunes like "Gloria," "Mustang Sally," "Louie Louie," etc. that we learned by ear from the records. Sometimes the older kids (like junior high) would show us the right chords if we had the wrong ones. This was the Beatlemania era, but for some reason we didn't touch that material. I don't remember why.

    After that it was all by ear from the vinyl. The first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album was a big one for me. From there it was Cream, Hendrix, etc. I didn't take any more lessons until the late '70s, when I got it into my head that I wanted to learn jazz. I took some theory classes at a local college and studied for a year or so with an excellent local guitar teacher. (I lived near Woodstock, NY, so the woods were full of great musicians.) That opened up a lot for me, although I never did become what I would call a jazz player.

    I've always been predominantly an ear player. I used to sit and watch TV with a guitar in my hands. Whenever there was music on some show, whether it was a performance of just background, I tried to play along with it. When there wasn't, I just noodled. Believe it or not, I think that helped me a lot.
     
  2. offsideref

    offsideref TDPRI Member

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    Well... there were a lot less distractions in the 70s. In 1973 (when I got my first guitar) there were exactly three TV channels in the UK, and because of the geography my parents’ house could only pick up two of them. Video recorders (for the home) didn’t exist. Same for home computers, video games, the internet... There were very few distractions to stop you from practicing at home or with your mates.

    The downside was there were less resources to help you copy the professional guitarists. “Top of the Pops” was the big weekly music show. You could forget learning by watching the guitarist’s hands because the camera operators never lingered on the guitar, even in a big solo, it was either closeups of faces, every pore on the frontman’s nose, long shots of the whole band, or pretty girls dancing. And every time they invented a new special effect for the cameras, things got worse.

    On top of that, bands were forced to mime to their own records, so the guitarists might or might not have been playing “properly” anyway.

    On the other, other hand, the punk revolution certainly made it easier to get into a band (like skiffle before it)!
     
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  3. Marblatx

    Marblatx TDPRI Member

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    I had 2 Mel Bay books back in 1964. Learned the chords and have been playing by ear ever since.
     
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  4. Sven Blues

    Sven Blues NEW MEMBER!

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  5. Sven Blues

    Sven Blues NEW MEMBER!

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    For me, the internet and youtube make it so much easier to learn new songs. I learned mostly by ear before internet, or sharing with friends. Repeatedly listening and playing along with songs. But I always sucked at repeating the original guitar bits (came up with my own interpretations/way to play some songs) which went a long way to develop my own style. The biggest thing the internet brought me is correct lyrics. Previously I did the best I could to capture lyrics from vinyl, mumbling if I wasnt sure of some words.
     
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  6. ThierryMattea

    ThierryMattea NEW MEMBER!

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    This is my take on it. Learning music was hard back then. Unless you were lucky enough to study under the tutelage of a teacher or enroll in music school, your only option was to listen to your favorite musicians on record players, 8-track or cassette tapes (depending on the era) and rely solely on your ears and your God-given musical instinct to figure out what's going on. Imagine looping the lead section of any particular song over and over again back then using these archaic, primitive technologies! I remember destroying many of my older brother's records just by picking up the needle and randomly flopping it back down in an attempt to decipher solo leads by Blackmore, Page, Gallagher, Trower, etc... Sorry bro! These limitations constituted a natural filtration that weeded out the wannabes, of which I was a poster boy, and those who were naturally endowed with natural God-given talent for the craft. In consequence, the majority of musicians that made it into the public domain back then were actually brilliant musicians, subsequently producing brilliant music. Thanks to digital MP3 technology and YouTube nowadays, I learned all about intervals, chord structures, scales, modes, etc... from the comfort of my bedroom chair at hardly any cost besides my internet data plan. Thanks to specialized apps I'm able to take any part of any song and slow it down to a snail's pace that enables me to hear every single note of any blistering lightening speed solo lead. Thanks to 21st century technology I'm now able to play songs I never dreamed I'm able to do in my virgining years. Did that make me into a full-fledged musician? A resounding NO is the answer. It has allowed me to play and enjoy music I've grown up listening to, but certainly did not foster the inner musical intuition that a few lucky ones are naturally born with. In that sense, it's certainly easier to learn anything nowadays, music included, with the availability of modern day digital technology, which constitutes a double edged sword. On one hand, anyone has access to fundamental knowledge that enables them to learn basic music theory and easily emulate his/her musical idols, talented or otherwise, while on the other, many are able to put a few chords together, use digital technology to mask their musical inadequacies and create a marketable persona on YouTube to reach the fame and legitimacy that only superbly talented musicians were able to do back in the day. Modern technology has been good to the average bedroom player while simultaneously terrible for music in general. Now I need to go back to YouTube and learn how to pour a concrete foundation for a skyscraper!
     
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  7. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Friend of Leo's

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    This is my story too. Piano is where I learned chords and the theory behind them. When learning Clapton and Hendrix licks that were fast, I would slow down my turntable from 33 rpm to 16 rpm. Then I could hear enough to decode those licks more easily. Of course I would then play them an octave higher than what I was hearing. I was also in bands from the age of 15. Playing with others helps greatly in further development of your "ear" and to musically "think on your feet". I still do that as much as I can today. It's been a beautiful journey.
     
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  8. OlRedNeckHippy

    OlRedNeckHippy Friend of Leo's

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    In 1968, a man would come to our house and give me a half hour lesson, once a week, for $5.00 each time.

    I took lessons from him for almost 2 years, till we moved out of Philly into South Jersey in 1970, when I started high school.

    I then found more seasoned players in school, seniors, to get lessons from, again at 5 bucks a lesson.

    Ahhhhh, good times....
     
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  9. JSL udon

    JSL udon TDPRI Member

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    It was a miracle that I ever learned to play at all. I began by playing single note melodies. I listened to The Shadows, The Ventures, The Surfaris etc. You could buy books and sheet music and I had a vague idea of how to follow the dots.

    I had a copy of the Bert Weedon book, too. It baffled me that everything printed seemed to be in the key of C. I guess the music to popular songs was transposed for the benefit of pianists, not guitarists. Bert Weedon used C too. It was too difficult for a beginner.

    I had a friend who taught me E, A and B7 chords. Other friends taught me more. I listened to Buddy Holly and, with a friend, worked out a lot of what he was doing. It seemed to work well in A.

    My next hero was, of course, Chuck Berry. I picked up his chugging rhythms and 2-string twangs and bends.

    Most of my learning was by courtesy of other guitarists - always A Good Thing.

    Nowadays, thanks to MS, I can't play guitar at all. I switched to Blues Harp. Learning that is a whole different story. Thank you Internet...
     
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  10. Minggo

    Minggo TDPRI Member

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    Just keep 'getten it. At my age, I wish I had taken up the harp full time. Less stuff the schelpp.
     
  11. offsideref

    offsideref TDPRI Member

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    About constantly playing a couple of bars of music to learn the licks better - I wrecked my dad’s reel-to-reel back in ‘73 doing just that. He was pretty good about it, considering I’d already commandeered his 16/33/45/78 valve amplified record player.
     
  12. dwlb

    dwlb Tele-Holic

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    Mel Bay books, lessons every week. Sitting down with records (and later, cassettes) trying to figure stuff out. I remember picking out the "Stairway to Heaven" solo with my guitar teacher, phrase by phrase. (He already knew it, but the process was part of the lesson.)
     
  13. Flipped Mustang

    Flipped Mustang Tele-Holic

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    This as well as a Beatles song book.
     
  14. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think I've commented on this before. It was largely done by ear, tuning, learning what notes were in key and some old books like Mel Bay and others. Sheet music was available here for 40 cents a song and often came with simple chord diagrams. I was lucky in that I had formal music reading training like your US schools. helped me work things out faster. That and trading licks with other musicians.
     
  15. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    Classic guitar lessons, records for rock and jazz. I wore out some fine LPs. And used a tuning fork, go figure!
     
  16. Minggo

    Minggo TDPRI Member

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    All in all, the takeaway from nearly all of these posts is the willingness to practice, practice, practice motivated by a desire to go beyond one's current playing abilities regardless of what learning method used. I still rehearse with our band and , as well, do my self teaching and rehearsing in my room. At 71 years, I don't have the shredding anymore and there is a noticeable delay in brain to finger response. I figure, I have to keep at it or it all goes away...as many bodily extremities have a tendency to fade away.
     
  17. BlueTele

    BlueTele TDPRI Member

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    Hey - that "guy" that Clapton lived with for nearly a year was/is the one-and-only John Mayall, and of course Clapton was in his band the Bluesbreakers, where the famed Beano album was recorded and established Clapton as "God" in roughly 1965/1966, just before he left to form Cream. Yes...Mayall had quite the extensive vinyl record collection. It was great back then. You could just put the stylus down on the record, try to play along with what you were hearing, and when you made a mistake...just lift the stylus up and set it back down again to try it all over again. You could do that with cassette tapes as well. But nowadays, with everything on your phone or computer, you can't. It is actually harder to teach yourself guitar today "off records", than it was in the 1960's - 1970's.
    BTW: If you haven't seen it yet, look for and watch "Life in 12 Bars". It is the story of Eric Clapton's life upto about the "Tears In Heaven" phase after the loss of his 4 year old son Conor, but also briefly takes you to the present with his young wife and several kids. He had an atypical, tragic youth, and was trying to express and solve is life's troubles through the Blues - to which he massively related - and then came out at the other end of a decades-long dark tunnel - by the grace of God - and is living his best years right now. God was looking out for him so often and in so many ways, especially the night in Wisconsin after a concert when Eric gave Stevie Ray Vaughn his seat on the helicopter that crashed just after take off, killing everyone on board - including Clapton's manager, and of course Stevie.
     
  18. BlueTele

    BlueTele TDPRI Member

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    L.O.L. - "Day Tripper" for sure! My "very first" was "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers - haha - remember that one? And of course, "Satisfaction". First complete song I learned (on my sister's nylon string guitar that I'd teach myself and play on when she wasn't home) was "And I Love Her" by the Beatles...even the solo! Have a good one.
     
  19. Steerforth

    Steerforth Friend of Leo's

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    In the late ‘60s, they gave you a book that taught you to play, “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie (The Old Gray Goose Is Dead)”.

    To go with that, they gave you a white electric guitar with cheap, sorry amp, purchased at a department store. The action was so high on the guitar that you could drive a dump truck under the strings. It made your fingers blister, and then bleed. But you took the pain and kept playing anyway.

    Periodically, you loitered at the music store and stared at anything with a Fender label with deep, agonizing longing.

    Once you did every odd job that anyone would give you and actually pay you for, over what seemed like nearly eternity at the time, you bought a secondhand pre-CBS Telecaster, and a blackface Twin Reverb from a guy that you knew who played in a band and gave you a low, low price out of sheer mercy, after seeing your initial guitar and amp. He was not only good-hearted, he had so much gear that he probably needed the room.

    By this time, your left hand had iron-tipped Kung Fu fingers. You threw that book away, picked up the Telecaster, and started listening to records over and over again until you could do approximately what was being done on the record, while your Dad periodically yelled down the basement stairs, “Turn that poop down!” Only he used another word for poop with the same meaning. But I don’t think I’m allowed to use that word here.

    Later on, you actually became interested in music theory and sight reading, and started playing the piano and listening to jazz to gain deeper insight.

    Then you got married later on, acquired lots of guitars and amps after the kids finished college, and your wife, also a musician, began saying things like, “I think the foundation is cracking! Do you really think that’s an appropriate amp for home use?”

    And that’s the way it was if you started playing guitar in the late ‘60s.
     
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